Friday, April 10, 2015

Guest Post! The Low End Theory: Meghan Trainor’s Base

Editor's note: Ladies and gentlemen, I've come into contact with a local scholar and cultural critic with an interest in both music and Islamic extremism. He's uncovered a disturbing link between the works of pop phenom Meghan Trainor and one of the United States's greatest enemies, al Qaeda. Due to the potentially dangerous ramifications of these revelations, the author would prefer to remain anonymous. Read on for a full analysis.

While nearly all people of sound mind can agree that Meghan Trainor is an agent of some dark force sent to ruin the lives of all who hear her songs, it is only recently that the true nature of her origins has become apparent. Through a careful reading of her popular songs “All About That Bass,” “Lips Are Movin,” and “Dear Future Husband,” Trainor’s status as a one-woman sleeper cell for al Qaeda comes into sharp focus.

As her first song to garner major airplay and attendant attention and praise, “All About That Bass” is an important moment for further examination, as it represents Trainor’s first successful attempt to insert covert al Qaeda messaging into the pop medium. First, the titular “Bass,” repeated throughout the song, is nothing other than an invocation of al Qaeda itself, which may be translated as “the base." Trainor’s frequent mentions and declaration that she is indeed “all about that bas[e]” asserting her fidelity to the cause of taking jihad to the infidels. The addendum to that central declaration, “no treble,” demonstrates a marked contempt for the branches of the US Armed Forces who oppose al Qaeda, with the treble/triple in this case being the Army, Navy, and Marines. The cheeky exclusion of the Air Force is intended as a statement against the numerous drone strikes targeting al Qaeda members and affiliates, as well as a gesture towards their ineffectuality at both an operational and sociopolitical level. Further, Trainor’s distaste for the treble points to a criticism of the Christian Trinity and an implied favoring of the singular Islamic deity, Allah, accompanied only by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

A handful of references throughout the balance of the song point to Trainor’s true intent as a sleeper agent: when she notes “I ain’t no size two,” Trainor suggests that al Qaeda’s scope is not limited to the destruction of the Twin Towers, with further attacks not only possible, but inevitable; in her statement that she can “shake it like I’m supposed to,” Trainor asserts her abilities with explosive devices, improvised and otherwise, and when she states “I got that boom boom that all the boys chase,” Trainor is sharing her successful recruiting credentials with the world; her claim that she’s “bringing booty back” suggests a Muslim reconquest and reclamation of lands lost in the era of the Crusades; and finally, when Trainor quotes her mother’s direction “don’t worry about your size,” she is reassuring those concerned about the diminutive numbers within al Qaeda that their cause may triumph.

Lips Are Movin” follows on “All About That Bass”'s valorization of al Qaeda and its cause, addressing mischaracterizations of deceased emir Osama bin Laden, the benefits of pan-Arabism, and the deleterious effects of capitalism, all with a brief few minutes. The central conceit of the song, that one may distinguish lies by the sheer movement of another’s mouth based on preconceptions about that individual, is a subtle reference to the 14 December 2001 release by the US government of a low quality video tape that purports to show bin Laden claiming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Apart from the too neatly serendipitous circumstances of the tape’s emergence (found in a safe house in Kandahar, Afghanistan) and the dubious claim that it is indeed bin Laden in the video, the translation is poor at best, reading a definitive claim of responsibility into language that does not suggest such ownership. In this case, the faux bin Laden’s lips move, revealing the machinations of the US government to blame al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks, at least in the al Qaeda reading of that scenario.

Trainor also calls to potential or current members of al Qaeda more specifically and the broader mujahideen to widen their horizons, saying “[b]oy, look me in the face / tell me that you’re not just about this bas[e],” retaining the importance of al Qaeda while situating it within the greater struggle of the Muslim umma for redress of the offenses perpetrated by the US. A particular point of contention within al Qaeda critiques of Western imperialist powers is the corrosive nature of capitalism, and Trainor gives attention to that matter as well, stating “[y]ou can buy me diamond earrings / and deny-ny-ny,” pointing to the cognitive dissonance between the supposed benefits of capitalism and the nominally Christian moral basis upon which the US’s aggrieved response to 9/11 rests. While not as ideologically prolific as “Bass,” “Lips Are Movin” elaborates upon the themes laid out in the former song, themes which are developed further and complemented with new elements in “Dear Future Husband.”

Dear Future Husband” manifests a traditionalist rendering of marital roles that stands in support of the strictly delimited responsibilities laid out in the Holy Qu’ran, the ostensibly rampant sexuality of the song being a hyperbolic feint meant to encourage women to adhere to proscribed gender roles. Throughout, the lyric delineates parallel tasks that the holy warrior’s helpmeet may take on, saying “here’s a few things / you’ll need to know if you wanna be / my one and only all my life,” a partnership of faith that exists up to and beyond the moment of martyrdom. The overall setting in which the relationship exists is set out in the statement “don’t forget the flowers every anniversary,” a call for an honorific remembrance of 9/11 as the first of many successful attacks. Where the male fighter “got that 9 to 5,” Trainor points out “baby, so do I,” reminding the song’s male subject of her importance as a supporting member of the larger cause. The “future husband” in question may also be a reference to the female warrior-as-bride of Allah, the consecration of their union being delayed until successful martyrdom. In this proximity to Allah, Trainor claims “even if I was wrong / you know I’m never wrong,” referencing the unerring role of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in recording the word of Allah in the Holy Quran. “Dear Future Husband” also establishes the role of woman warrior-as-check and balance, the one who assures the moral stability of the male warrior, at once secondary (in her lesser responsibilities) and central (in the importance of that particular responsibility).

In sum, Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” “Lips Are Movin,” and “Dear Future Husband” constitute a thoroughgoing and insidious intervention of al Qaeda ideology into mainstream American popular culture, an aural IED wrapped in bright pastels and the perky Aryanisms of Trainor herself. If it was not obviously so before, the importance of stopping Trainor’s infiltration before further damage is done is now paramount. If not, the terrorists win.

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